One time a young man went to a car lot to buy a car. While looking over one of the automobiles, the young man notices that the horn didn’t work. Whereupon we hear the following dialogue between the young man and the car dealer:
“Sir, the horn on this automobile must be broken.”
“Broken? No,” said the dealer, “it’s just indifferent.”
“Indifferent! What do you mean?”
“Well,” replied the dealer, jokingly, “it just doesn’t give a hoot.”
Upon reading articles in our periodicals and observing many of the adults and young people alike in our societies and churches, outsiders might be led to believe that we, in connection with society activities and church life just don’t give a hoot. We, as Protestant Reformed young people and adults almost without exception, have taken an indifferent – I don’t give a hoot – attitude toward society, toward our BEACON LIGHTS, toward our churches and toward spirituality in general. We just don’t care.
Samuel Johnson once wrote the following about seeing something of interest. “Worth seeing? But, not worth going to see.” To connect this with the subject at hand I take the liberty to reword it thus: “Worth doing? Yes; but not worth the effort to do it.” This in the second place illustrates the attitude of most of us. Perhaps we should allow for some exceptions. I’m sure, however, that there is room for improvement in each one of us.
Most of us feel and are ready to admit that society is worth attending; that BEACON LIGHTS is worth reading; and that spiritual edification and fellowship worth striving for; but, most of us do not feel they are worth the effort necessary to get us actively involved in doing these things well. We are indifferent. We have not followed and do not intend to follow the rule that “what is worth doing, is worth doing well.” Someone else can do it better than I can so why not let him do it.
Finally, by way of illustrating this problem, a wise sage of years ago once stated that, “a wrong-doer is often a man that has left something undone, not always he that has done something.” If you happen to be one who seldom prepared for society – who has come to society with the lesson undone; you are then, according to the sage, a wrong-doer. If you fail to read BEACON LIGHTS or the Standard Bearer, or fail to become involved in matters pertaining to the church; you are leaving your spiritual welfare undone; you are a wrong-doer. We as covenant young people should find it necessary to come to society prepared, to read Scripture daily, to read our periodicals, and to lead Christian lives. This is our calling, we become necessarily wrong-doers.
Perhaps the root of the problem lies in our worldly mindedness and in our abominable selfishness. Fun seems to be the driving motivation for everything we do. Be sure we refuse anything we dislike doing that isn’t fun. Is this, young people, the rule you most often follow?
In the next few paragraphs I wish to quote extensively from Rev. Decker’s editorial in the May 1964 issue of BEACON LIGHTS entitled, “Don’t ask what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” In his editorial, Rev. Decker altered this quote of assassinated President Kennedy this way: “Don’t ask what your society can do for you; ask what you can do for your society.” The problem ultimately is not what the society is or is not doing, but what you as the society member are or are not doing. According to Rev. Decker “. . . no society is more alive than any of its individual members. The society as a whole is afflicted with apathy only to the degree that the individuals who make up that society are apathetic.” He suggests this question: “If your society is sick, maybe it’s because you are?”
Rev. Decker then describes the symptoms if indifference by describing three very common society members: Mr. John Van Hasty, Mr. George Donothing, and Miss Molly Van Doesnotspeakup.
“John Van Hasty appears to be very healthy and active. It is sometimes rather difficult to detect John’s apathy, but it has definitely been found. John, one month ago, was given an assignment to compose a reading for the society “after recess’ program. He readily complied. (Take note of the readily.) At last week’s meeting of ‘Young Peoples’ John gave a short, poorly prepared reading which benefited the society little. Many again went home dissatisfied and disgusted. Van Hasty, you see, has given no time – though he had a whole month – to the preparation of his paper. He was apathetic and therefore the whole society suffered.”
“George Donothing’s case is quite similar. In a way George’s type of apathy isn’t quite as bad as John’s. George at least makes no attempt to cover it up. When George was asked to take part in a panel discussion, he simply said, for no good reason, ‘No thanks, I’d rather not.’”
Maybe you can in all honesty say that neither of these two members resembled yourself. But we have yet another society member whom you may resemble. Her name is Miss Molly Doesnotspeakup. Rev. Decker describes her for us.
“Her case is very simple. She faithfully attends every meeting (even when the high school has a basketball game). She converses with her friends during the few minutes preceding society. From the time of opening prayer, however, to closing prayer, she says nothing. Her only reaction to the discussion is an occasional benign smile accompanied by an almost indiscernible nod of the head. Her only contribution is her presence.”
Do you represent one of these typical society members? In the end all three of these characters, although essentially different, do have one thing in common. They all dislike society and they all are very severe critics of what goes on in society. From the editorial:
“One hears such things as ‘The minister does all the talking’ (this is Molly’s favorite remark after society); or ‘It’s always that certain few who get to do everything’ (George’s comment); or ‘Sure have lousy programs in society – wish we could do something interesting once’ (John’s gripe).”
Have you in the past made one of the remarks that our three typical society members made above? Have you even given thought to one of them? If so – you can be sure that part of the fault in society is your own. You are indifferent.
This indifference is not necessarily limited to our attitude toward society but also includes our attitude at conventions and our reaction toward BEACON LIGHTS.
The question that might now arise is, Well, so what? What if I am indifferent?
To find the answer to this question we go to Scripture. What does the Bible have to say about indifference? In Rev. 3:15-16 the apostle John writes these words to the church at Laodicea, “I (God is speaking through John) know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would that thou were cold or hot. So then, because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.” In II Chronicles 29:11 Hezekiah instructs the Levites with this admonition, “My sons, be not now negligent (indifferent): for the Lord hath chosen you to stand before Him, to serve Him. . . .” Has not the Lord also chosen you? In Numbers 32:6 we read, “And Moses said unto the children of God and the children of Reuben, Shall your brethren go to war, and shall ye sit here.” Finally in Matt. 25:26-30 the Lord speaks wrathfully against the man who buried his talent in the earth “. . . Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gathered where I have not strawed: Thou aughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. Take therefore, the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. For unto everyone that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance; but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.” “Therefore” James writes in James 4:17, “to him that knoweth to do good and doeth it not, to him it is sin.”
Young People, your society’s discussions, after recess programs and activities are worth every amount of effort you can exert. The problem is basically in your value scale. If one third of the amount of time you spend in recreation and socializing would be spent in preparation for society and in reading our periodicals, a marked improvement would become evident. It is an alarming state of affairs when worldly pleasures take such overwhelming precedence in our young lives that we have no time to dedicate in service to the Lord our God and to the study of His Holy Word.
Seriously consider your calling before Almighty God and rid yourselves of the offensive title “The horn that didn’t give a hoot.”
Originally Published in:
Vol. 31 No. 4 June/July 1971